Editor’s Note: The Battalion recently offered all the candidates running for public office in the cities of Bryan and College Station as well as Brazos County the opportunity to submit guest opinion pieces. We will be publishing the articles of those who accepted that offer daily between Oct. 26 and Election Day.
Bob Brick is a research specialist, scientist for biological sciences at Texas A&M and candidate for Place 1 on the City Council of College Station in the 2020 election on Nov. 3.
The virus sweeping our community has dealt a heavy blow to our citizens and our businesses alike. Nearly all activity, social and commercial, has slowed or ceased altogether. It has hospitalized infected persons; the fortunate were able to return to their homes. Affected businesses have seen reductions in activity, sometimes to the point of permanent closure. Just a few months ago, our largest “business,” Texas A&M, has seen regular life reduced beyond imagination.
As a member of the research team at the A&M Institute for Quantum Science & Engineering and a former member of the Wildlife Fisheries Sciences Department faculty, I am keenly aware of how this pandemic has affected A&M and its students, as well as the city of College Station. I believe the administration of A&M has put into place a workable plan to meet the challenges now facing the university. As a member of the City Council of College Station, I am committed to supporting these efforts that affect all of us in the Brazos Valley.
The major effect of this situation on our city is significantly reduced revenues. As of July, the approved FY20 city budget (just over $341 million) has been reduced by over $5.9 million. The city council reduced the approved FY21 budget (just over $312.6 million) by almost $30 million from last year and $5.3 million below expectations earlier this year. The city of College Station has either distributed or approved for the release of over $2 million in local and federal funds to support our citizens (through rental assistance and other programs) and local businesses (through supplemental payroll funds and others).
In times like this, strength and flexibility produce resilience in governance. It is always a challenge to create a budget that balances fiscal responsibility with our city’s other needs. A keen awareness of the city’s Core Value of Financial Sustainability and adherence to our City Council Mission Statement — “to advance and promote the quality of life for the community” — will provide the guidance needed to cope successfully with the current challenges as we move forward.
Our society is also facing tremendous social challenges as we attempt to create a more perfect union. We expect our cities to respond to these financial and social challenges by assuring that all of our citizens benefit from the economic, social and political decisions we support.
After going through this process during my first term, I have developed a great appreciation for our staff who work to share the different aspects of the budgeting process to help us on the Council to make necessary decisions. They have presented a budget for 2021 that has trimmed $28.5 million from the 2020 budget. There will always be differences of opinion about where the Council could or should make more cuts. However, I believe the staff has done a responsible job looking for ways to respond to the difficult financial times we are facing.
However, the City Council’s elected members must bear the responsibility for making the best possible use of the funds with which we have to work. This reality requires us to find ways to serve all of our citizens and their desires for making this the kind of city we all want to live in and build for future generations to inherit. In this regard, we are the only city in the country with six nationally accredited departments — parks, public works, water, fire, police and civil communications. Ultimately, we have to find ways to provide the core services that will protect our citizens’ lives while supporting our city’s growth and maintaining our quality of life.
We have to respond to our business community’s concerns by providing the kind of stable community that allows businesses to thrive. We must seek ways to sustain our neighborhoods as desirable living places for all of our residents, including many students who must live off-campus.
As a city, we have to continue to grow in ways that are desirable and sustainable. These should not be either/or choices. Instead, they require us to make responsible decisions among many competing interests in responding to all areas of our community.
And we must do all of this in one of the most challenging economic, political and social environments in our country’s history.
I ask for your vote to continue serving on the College Station City Council in the two-year term for Place 1.